Princess Margaret

You may remember the woman who was once second in line to the throne as a rather sad old lady in a wheelchair. In her youth, though, during the 1950s and 1960s, Princess Margaret was a leader of London social life. Whether it was hunt balls, charity dinners or nightclubs – where she loved dancing to the Latin beat, especially Edmundo Ross – Princess Margaret was there. This was at a time when, with the exception of the occasional bounder who was generous enough with his money to be invited in, society was still largely aristocratic and social boundaries were strictly controlled.
The princess achieved her position as a fashion icon against considerable odds. The royal family were expected to wear only British-designed clothes in public. Even in private, to do otherwise was frowned upon. The princess, realising that most London couturiers were used to dressing women twice her age, broke the rules as often as she dared. Indeed, she ignored them for this 21
st-birthday portrait by Cecil Beaton, in which she wears a stunning dress by Christian Dior.
She was free-spirited, too. I remember being at a formal dinner where, to enable her to have a drag from her elegant cigarette holder, the loyal toast (before which no smoking is allowed) was brought forward to immediately after the soup.
The story illustrates her attitude to rules. Yet she did not, even in her most relaxed moments, allow anyone to forget her position or the respect due to the royal family. She once turned on a friend who referred to Queen Elizabeth II as “your sister”. “Do you mean the Queen?” she asked icily as the friendship bit the dust. She was a million contradictions: both a princess and a Bet Lynch.
(First published November 2005)

Picture..John Galliano’s autumn/winter 2005 haute couture collection for Christian Dior celebrated the centenary of Dior’s birthday, and paid homage to the Princess as a couture client.